Thursday, November 15, 2018

'Nuff said.

My name is Justin Palm, and, well... I'm Spider-Man.

Wait, no, let me back up for a minute, because I genuinely just had a flashback to something I hadn't thought of in two decades...
It's the summer after fourth grade, and I'm in an art class with my friend Matt.  The local news shows up, to do a standard local news puff piece.  They ask me why I'm in this class, why I love to draw.  And I tell them that, the moment it got serious for me, was one day when I decided to draw Spider-Man.  And something just... it all clicked in my head, somehow.  That's what I wanted to do, forever.

When I was a kid, I literally was on the news because I was drawing something Stan Lee helped come up with.  On the list of "writers and artists who shaped my life", he is pretty close to the top.  Twenty-odd years later, I was in a life drawing workshop this Tuesday.  Stan Lee died on Monday.  And, to be honest, I have a lot of complicated feelings about that.

To be clear, I'm not here to deify the man.  His treatment of female characters in the 60's is very much... of the 60's.  Like most art, not all of his work has aged well.  He was no saint, he did a lot of shitty things.  And I'm not talking his personal life- that's not my place to judge- I mean artistic and business ethics stuff.  He was a brilliant showman, and like a lot of showmen he took more credit than he probably really deserved for a long time.  It's almost unquestionable that he took credit from artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and probably many others. Ditko, of course. being the co-creator of Spidey and Doctor Strange (and Kirby basically everything else, because that man was a freaking CREATIVE MACHINE)... Wait.

Holy shit.

Both Spider-Man's creators have died this year.  Shit.
One, a bombastic glory-hound.  The other, a creepy recluse who wanted to be left alone forever, because no one understood him and his weird obsessions.  Somehow, yeah- both for me and Spider-Man's creators- that seems about right.

Now, when I say I'm Spider-Man, I should probably be more specific.  These days there are a lot of Spider-Men, and Spider-Women, and they're all great in different ways.  Maybe I should instead say that I'm Peter Parker.  Peter was a smart kid, with lots of people on his side that frankly, he had a hard time noticing.  He made a selfish decision that inadvertently led to him losing someone he loved, and the guilt of that decision basically controlled his life from then on.  Being a nerd, feeling responsible for everything, and wanting to save everyone-- that's me.  And that's all from Spidey.

The person who can't see the amazing people around him.  Who doubts everything about himself, except when he puts on a mask, and suddenly?  He's the most carefree person around.  Always with a joke, always ready to take on any bully with a smart ass quip.  Because that's what works, that's what makes sense to him.  His real life always seems to be falling apart to him, but when he's Spider-Man?  Fighting gods and monsters?  Just another Wednesday.  All this pathos, and all in one character who basically is who I identify with most.  I'm not sure what that says exactly, but it's not nothing.

So, you see, I'm Spider-Man, because I think everyone is kind of Spider-Man, in different ways.  Everyone knows what it's like to feel isolated, to put on a mask to hide your pain, to screw up but keep trying despite your mistakes.  And even though everyone knows what that feels like, it was Stan who crystallized those feelings to me, when he created my favorite superhero.  Mine, and a lot of people's. Not just Peter Parker.

Stan Lee co-created literally hundreds of other characters, wrote thousands of stories, and was championing against racism as the mid 60's were just getting started.  I mean, the man wrote "This Man, This Monster!"  He wrote "Silver Surfer: Parable".  He wrote "The Fangs of the Desert Fox!" maybe my favorite World War II story ever.  He wrote "The Final Chapter", not only the greatest Spider-Man story ever told, but the single greatest superhero story ever, FULL STOP.  I'm willing to fight anyone over that, and I'm gonna take a moment to explain why.

Aunt May is dying, because, well, that was kind of her de facto status in the 60's.  Spidey has the medicine to save her, but hero shit keeps needing his attention.  Doctor Octopus had this amazing plan that totally screwed over Spidey, and he's trapped under debris in a flooding undersea lab base that's about to be destroyed (because comics are AWESOME)- anyway, Spider-Man has LOST. His greatest enemy beat him, and his maternal figure is about to die.  So is he, and nothing can stop any of it.  And at first, this destroys him, he's convinced that he's a total failure.  But as desperation sets in, Peter realizes the medicine to save her... it's right in front of him.  All he has to do to save her is... the impossible.  Lift this giant (literal) weight off himself to escape and save her.

"Anyone can win a fight when the odds are easy," Spider-Man tells himself, as much as the reader.  "It's when the going's tough-- when there seems to be no chance-- that's when it counts!"  And through all the struggle and pain, he forces himself to lift this impossible amount of debris, to fight his way through the rest of Doc Ock's goons, to save the day.  Because when everything is the darkest, that's when you need to fight to do what's right the most.

There's a reason Spider-Man: Homecoming homages this entire scene. Its probably the greatest use of superheroing ever.  And Stan wrote it.

I never literally met Stan Lee, but that was a personal choice.  A few years ago I was at Chicago's Comic-Con with my best friend Patrick, when Lee was there.  We saw him, people were in line for a picture or an autograph, and we both kind of felt like... what are you supposed to say to Stan Lee?  We could geek out, sure, but thousands of people had done that to Stan Lee for decades.  Like, what do you say when you actually meet a legend that straight up helped invented you as a person?  How do you even process that, when you're not even close to being on equal footing?

My biggest creative work, that I've been playing with for a decade, is a very deliberate Spider-Man riff.  There's some very real talk about me co-hosting a Spider-Man podcast in the near future.  I live and breathe Marvel, and even though Stan didn't create Marvel (lots of people are wrong there, it's much more complicated than that), Stan Lee did indirectly created me.  It's, like, Star Trek, then Marvel Comics.  That's why I believe in what I believe in.  Spider-Man taught me to always try to help people.  Not because you can help everyone, or that you'll always succeed in doing what's right.  But that doesn't mean you can't try.  He screws up, a lot sometimes.  But he never stops trying.

Stan Lee taught me that with great power comes great responsibility.  And I don't give a damn if that line has become cliched in the fifty years sense he first wrote it.  It's an incredibly important lesson, and I wouldn't be me if he hadn't told me that.  'Nuff said.

Friday, May 25, 2018

An Extremely Disappointing (and yet, adorable) Dragon

Hey, remember that kid who didn't get mauled by a lion that one time?  Let's talk about him for a bit.  "Bel and the Dragon" is an add-on chapter to Daniel; it's only canon if you're Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or also you just prefer it when your religions have dragons.  And frankly?  That should be all of us, because dragons are AWESOME.  That's not really up for debate, because holy shit, dragons?  That's how HBO is making all of their money right now.

Okay, so, Cyrus the Great.  He's straight up the actual messiah prophesied in Isaiah (DESPITE WHAT THE CHRISTIANS SAY).
(In so much as any prophecy is true, instead of being just total nonsense that hobos say, which is definitely where I stand, at all times, about any prophecies ever).

Anyway, Cyrus, right? He was the emperor of Persia that rescued Jerusalem from the Babylonians, or whatever.  And in this story, Daniel (God's current number one guy) is hanging out with this dude, and Cyrus is all "How come you don't worship Bel, our god, like all of us do?  You see this sweet statue of him?  It's friggin' awesome!"

Daniel is super smug about all this, but he basically says "Ha ha, you idiots, that's just a statue, wait until you see my real God here, real soon!"

The gag is that every night, the priests of Bel set a shit load of sheep and wine in front of this idol, and it's magically gone the next day.  Cyrus is convinced the statue eats and drinks all of the offerings it gets every night.  But because Daniel isn't a complete moron, he realizes the priests who are in charge of manipulating this idiot probably take all of the offerings for themselves every night, to, I don't know, feed their families or whatever.  This guy is dumb enough to believe anything, so they just go with it.

Cyrus and Daniel make a bet about all this: If Daniel can prove this religion is bullshit, all the 70 or so priests of Bel will be murdered, along with their entire families.  If not, only Daniel gets killed.

I hate the fact that Daniel wins here, and therefore a bunch of innocent children are butchered, but the Bible's gotta Bible, people.

Daniel sprinkles sand all over the floor, so everyone who was secretly eating the sheep and drinking the wine get caught, because no one realized it was a sting operation.  (Fucking Bible times, man.)

Extensive murder times ensue.


Not long after all those kids were murdered for their parents deceiving the king and stuff, there's this DRAGON. A dragon who loves CAKES.  And I'm pretty sure that there is no version of reality that doesn't find this delightful.  Think about it.  A dragon who loves cakes.  You can't help it, it makes you smile just like all of us.  I wish I had a pet dragon who loved cakes, it would be amazing.  You want one too, now that I put the idea in your head.

ANYWAY!  Cyrus is all "Hey Daniel!  I know you proved that last god was a bunch of bullshit, but this stuff right here?  Straight up dragon, my dude!  Prove this isn't worthy of worship, is all I'm saying!"

(Editorial note:  If I found out there was a real life dragon who loved cakes, and that's all he or she wanted in this life? I would absolutely devote myself to him/her.  A cake loving dragon is majestic as fuck, and I don't care who says otherwise.)

Unfortunately, that love of cakes is about to backfire on this dragon (who, at least in Medieval artwork, turns out to not be that impressive, because it's about cat sized, which is also ADORABLE, and I WANT ONE SO BAD, a LITTLE CAT SIZED DRAGON?  That's a finer world than we are privy to.  Where can I get a pint sized dragon?   It's like Lockheed!  I need this in my life right now!)

Moving on, Daniel goes "I'll make a cake out of fat, and hair, and hay, and other gross shit!" which for a whole bunch of reasons should not work, but totally does, so the dragon eats it, and somehow just FUCKING EXPLODES afterwards.


Daniel murders a dragon by an exploding cupcake, and Christians don't really want to talk about this story.  If it was me? This shit would be my opening act. "I killed a dragon with a cupcake!" is a pretty compelling opening line.
(I would, however, leave out that it was a cat-sized dragon. Adorable though it may be.)

And, okay, normally this is where I'd say "I didn't make this shit up", but it turns out neither did the early Jews.  This is a retelling of a story about Marduk killing a dragon.  Marduk was a Babylonian god.   And somehow "Marduk" got translated to "Bel" in the Jewish tradition, for reasons that I have no rational explanation for.

So, Daniel slayed Bel, who is actually named Marduk, then slayed a dragon (who used to be named Tiamat), and then stole the story of Marduk slaying Tiamat to become his own supposed origin.  Jesus, religion is so fucking weird.

After that, Daniel is thrown into a lion's den for the second time. This time with a dude whose name is better than any name I'll ever come up with: "Have a cock!" It's spelled "Habbakuk" but... Say it out loud.  But Daniel is an old hat at this by now, the lions don't eat him, it's all fine.  Except that everyone who thought they should throw Daniel into the lion's den (again) were then murdered by lions.

This is how the story ends.  Really.

To be fair, religions without dragons?  They're all BULLSHIT.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Power Rangers 2017: An Extremely Drunken Review

Listen, I love lots of things.  Cats.  Stern brunettes.  Turtles.  Pizza.  Turtles who love pizza, and also do ninja flips and shit, while a giant rat coaches them.

I have a variety of tastes, is my point.  And one thing I've always loved is teenagers in weird ass helmets, fighting monsters with karate, then the monster gets giant sized, so they have to summon giant robots to then fight the monster with a big ass sword, the monster explodes, it's totally great.  Power Rangers is the perfect show, because it works when you're 6; or when you're 30 and don't want to worry too much about the plot, because you're drinking and you just want background noise.

What I don't like:  Super serious, pompous ass super hero films that take themselves super seriously.  Like, if you wear a cape or spandex, calm the fuck down.  I love superheroes more than it could possibly be healthy for an adult to, but they're a power fantasy, kids.  It's fine if you accept that.  But, like, it doesn't take a genius to realize Batman is kind of a plutocratic dream come true, and that is NOT a compliment.

And thus, when I learned that last year's Power Rangers reboot film was free on Amazon Prime, well.... I asked around.  And basically all my friends agreed I should get really shitty drunk watching it and also I should live blog it, for comedy's sake.  So, these are my uncensored thoughts as I watch this movie.  Also, my friend (and almost co-host of a podcast that sort of fell apart, unfortunately) Devin is here, to chime in occasionally.  Neither of us have seen this yet.  Apologies in advance.


0:30  Umm.  First of all, the Cenozoic Era covers the last 66 million years, so, I'm really not sure when this prologue takes place....

3:30 WAIT.  We're three minutes in, and we just got a "jacking off a bull" joke that wasn't really a joke.
This is a film for children, right?  RIGHT.

4:00 Was that... was that the cow's dick?  What the shit?

5:00 I'm not sure that car accident was proportional to how slow they were driving....

6:15 (Devin)*in italics from here on out*: Is he supposed to be a Power Ranger?
(Justin): You mean the old one?
(Devin): No the young one 
(Justin) I think that's supposed  be Jason.

6:45 We just paused for three minutes to debate why a Power Ranger would jack off a bull, when the franchise already has Bulk and Skull, and if ANYONE in this series would masturbate a bull, it would definitely be those guys.  Pretty sure the're not in this film, though.

I think they want to be Star Trek 2009. But boy, did they miss the mark.

8:30 Yes, it is Jason, and no, this movie hasn't learned what we all learned 20 episodes into the original season:  Jason is not meant to be a main character.
(But  also, don't be shitty to autistic kids, that's just mean)

10:00 This seems more like a prison then detention, but sure, New Kimberly, cut your hair for no god damn reason.

10:10  The only the thing that stands between you and your girlfriend, is autism.
And then inevitably a cooler kid will show up later and steal her, because Green trumps Red

13:00 Devin says he remembers the ankle bracelet from earlier in the movie, I don't, but whatever. I crashed a car in high school,and they didn't give me one of those is my point.
Also, holy shit, an impromptu Faraday Cage?  What the what?
I can see the judge going over Jason's case. "Your punishment is detention for a year. And also an ankle bracelet. because."
"I'll teach you to jack off a bull!"

15:00 Still not funny.
 Autism!  We're gonna celebrate people who have it, by our "hero" having no fucking idea what it is!  Hilarious!

(Billy) "I didn't get the joke, my brain doesn't work the same way as yours"  No Billy, your brain is fine, it just wasn't funny.

16:00 This film doesn't really know how to introduce new characters, huh?
Also, stop trying to make a Jason-Kimberly romance a thing.  That's never gonna be a real thing.
Fanfics will back it up, Jason-Tommy is much more likely.

19:00 Me: "Is Billy building a bomb, or what?"
*Explosion happens immediately*
Me: "Fair enough."

21:00 Emergency chiseling time!  Why not!


My thoughts- this is a coma dream movie about what Jason thinks happens after his debilitating car wreck.

26:00 And then Jason... woke up?  Shit, Devin was right.

No, I now think this is a "Groundhog Day" movie.


We take a desperately needed brief intermission at this point. 25 minutes in.


If I was watching episodes of Power Rangers, there would have been at least two ninja fights and a giant monster battle by now, and we'd be on a second episode already.  Just saying.

I'm beginning to think *free* is the correct price for this movie.

27:00 Toby Maguire did it better
That's an isoteric joke, and I like it!
No, pop culture joke, but yes, it was good.

29:00 *Bullying scene where the bully gets his comeuppance commences*
Still Spider-Man?
Yeah, but this time with a ginger kid, and we all know they don't have souls, so..... kinda deserved it?

30:00 You know, the original Morphers never did stupid shit like this, I'm just saying.

33:00  At risk of being redundant. Are we really still doing Spider-Man?

34:00 Hey, remember on the show, where the Power Rangers apparently could basically fly?  Huh.  Me neither.
Also, I really wish they'd ship Kimberly and Trini, not Kimberly and Jason.
Honestly, its all about Jason and Billy for me. Not that I really want to see it, but it would be the better story element, I mean, come on. Why did Jason want to help Billy? And who came to Billy's rescue? Who had the real lover's spat? Its already written in the script, just make out already.

37:00 Really esoteric, but this is now a "Sphere" movie.
 I never saw it, but I did read the book...
Good book.

38:00 OMG would someone punch Jason in the mouth?  UGH

40:00 Would the director please stop raping powerful camera techniques plz.

41:00 Alpha 5 is now, apparently, a tentacle monster.  I'm still processing that.
Good news for the ladies, he apparently runs on D-cell batteries.

44:15 I hope they made a whole new language for this movie. I really want to know that a linguist anguished over developing an entire language, so that Bill Hader could yell at Bryan Cranston in it.

At this point, Zordon finally showed up, and we'd be done with 2 full episodes of the TV show,if we were watching it instead of this, yet no super suits yet...

I just noticed, apparently Zordon is the Matrix.

Not just the Matrix!  The big Gerber Baby dude at the end of Revolutions!

46:00 I'm really sorry, but at this point, this is just too much.
Thankfully, through Jesus' miracle of autism, Billy can magically explain the plot!
Someone, somewhere, thought that this was how you portray autism in a movie.


At this point we take an absinthe shot intermission, to help bring us to the level of the writers.


Let me go over the movies that do it better. Spider-Man, Star Trek (2009), Transformers (shudder), Mercury Rising
Breakfast Club
Sphere, Matrix
Matrix Revolutions
And probably Aeon Flux.

47:00 God damn it, New Kimberly.  I was on your side until you said "wet wedgie".  That's not a thing
Also, what the shit is going on with Rita?  I mean, who wouldn't want to make out with Elizabeth Banks, but still...

48:30 Yes, women are all cowards.  That's a good life lesson.  (Jesus, this movie...)

48:50  (Jason) "How do you know my name?" (Devin as Zordon) "Fuck you"

You're a Power Ranger now, Harry.

GUYS.  This movie is really BAD.

50:00 They literally just said "I feel like I was bit by a spider"! *My non-existent Spider-Sense goes crazy*

53:00 I don't know how to deal with this film.  It may have broken me.

Power Rangers was always dumb, but it was also always earnest.  That's what this movie doesn't get.

54:30 And now, a masturbation joke, plus more Matrix shit.  Hooray.

54:55 (Bill Hader) "Its disturbing, very disturbing" I agree.

And now, this movie is ripping off of Power Rangers, the movie, 1996

58:00 Trini and Kimberley are flirting over cheesecake.  More of this please! (I am super serious, they have way better chemistry than Kimberly and Jason)

59:00  RJ Cyler's character is terrible, but his acting is the only good thing in this movie so far.

1:00:00 Someone just died, but we're not entirely sure who.  Jason's dad?  Billy's mom?  Zack's mom?  Fuck it, it doesn't really matter.  Power Rangers: a kids' show, world famous for it's funeral scenes.

Add Star Wars and X-Men to the roster (X-Men really should've been added before, but I was too hesitant. Oh, the folly)

1:01:00 Halfway through, and we FINALLY get Zords

Someone just died. right?
Yeah, someone.
What is the plot of this movie?




1:01:00 I have web slingers?

1:02:00 Oh good, a fist fight.  More great lessons for a kids show, huh?

Add F4ntastic to the list.

1:06:00 Seriosuly, why would you hire Elizabeth Banks, and then do that to her face?

Why Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, seriously?

(This movie is causing us to an have existential movie crisis on infinite movies... just an FYI)

Silver Surfer is one of my favorite heroes. Of all time.  How could you?

(That was actually a different Fantastic Four movie, but let's just go with it...)

1:07:00 = 1990 cgi

109:00 I'm actually impressed with her acting as Rita, fuck the nonbelievers, its not her fault the movie sucks
Yeah, she's great, make-up choices aside

Now we're making fun of AA or something?  I mean, we've all done it, but the Power Rangers are better than that... I thought.

1:10:00 Country music is the devil.

1:11:00 So, uh, the teenagers who are the Power Rangers are drinking beer now, I think?

1:12:30 Teen aaaaangst

1:13:00 This is how lesbians make out, right?
WOW, this script is awfully on the nose, huh?

1:14:00 Ok, no joke, Banks is kind of rocking her inner Michelle Pheiffer as a villainess here, I dig it

1:16:00 We're literally 76 minutes into this film, and no one is a superhero yet.  Fuck this shit

Where are the evil bird things and ninja fighting?

1:18:00 Billy seems to become less and less socially inarticulate... just another symptom of autism I guess.

1:20 I'd say, hey, action scene!  Except the lighting is such shit in this movie...

Also, suddenly, what's with Banks' accent? Everything was better a few minutes ago

1:22:00 I really hope Crispy Cream didn't spend too much on the advertising in this film.

1:24:00 Ahahahaha!!!! This cover of "Stand By Me" in this shit right now!!!

Words fail me, I cannot continue

1:27:00 Jesus, there's only a quarter of this film left, and nothing has happened, all goddamn movie.

Just realized, Zordon is a giant toy with the pins that you push your face into, and make your face.

Add Pacific Rim

1:30:00 This is the longest "It's Morphin' Time" shot I've ever seen, but at least they finally fucking have costumes,  3/4s of the movie in.

Add Armageddon to the list

Jesus, he's right, that was exactly the Armageddon shot.  UGH

1:32:00 Goldar used to be a griffin dude, but, uh, now he's a gold monster?  But fuck it, we finally get ninja fights.  About time!

We add Die Hard, I guess. Lot more Bruce Willis in this movie than I expected

1:35:00  She looks blonder in pink

I have a lot less complaints about this movie, now that things are actually happening

Honestly, if you are watching this movie, just start from the point that they morph, and pretend its a new episode.

(Except when the daddy issues come back up, but moving on)

But if you start it where I told you to, you don't know its his dad, so moot

That's a fair point.

1:41:00 (Jason) "She's back."  No, she never went away, idiot. "She's remaining." would be a better line.

1:43:00 Was Goldar just fingering the Mastodon Zord's ass?  Because I wouldn't put it past this movie

1:45:00 I know my Megazord transformations, and this was the worst way to make a Megazord ever

1:50:00 (Jason) "Trini now!" Bitch Slap, Activated!

And thus, Rita Repulsa is froze in space forever.  I guess....?

1:53:00 Bryan Cranston is too good for this shit...

This movie turned into a dead horse real fast, and I'm surprised I made it this far, to be honest. I guess I got the power.

(That's a joke about the soundtrack, but honestly, it's not worth your effort...)
(No offense, Devin.  This movie has hurt us both.)

1:56 Wow, and then that stinger scene.... is really dumb.  Thank god there's never actually going to be a sequel to this mess, cuz.... Yeah.  It's really bad...

I'd say overall, if you want to enjoy this movie... watch Spider-Man.

Okay, movie over, and we just saved you two hours of your life.  If you want a hardcore Power Rangers movie that doesn't suck... there's that one on youtube with Katee Sackhoff.  Or if you want only a 2 minute trailer or something, there's the new Shattered Grid trailer with Jason David Frank as an evil Green Ranger, if you want to see a trailer for a comic that I hear is pretty good?   Just... wow, skip this movie, at least until the end.  It's pretty bad.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Fear and Loathing 2018: So This is Where We Are Now

Short and sweet today, just my reactions to Tuesday night.

It's March the 22nd, in the year of many people's lord, 2018.  I mean, he's not mine, I'm an atheist.  But I think he was mostly a chill dude? Aside from the whole "doing business at church" thing, which he was definitely not ok with.  (The irony there is that Americans love doing business at church, churches are businesses...  I'm not on my A game here, but I feel like my point is palpable.)

I'm not about to sugarcoat how I'm feeling about things. The primaries are over, and we have the candidates we're going to have regardless of personal sentiment.  In the state of Illinois, our 2018 choice for governor is either the monster billionaire we've had for 4 years, or a different billionaire who hopefully won't be a monster?  I'm not trying to be rude, it's just that, historically speaking, governors of Illinois are often monsters, and being a billionaire just automatically adds to my distrust of someone.

Jay Robert Pritzker not only has an inexplicable last name, he has ties to Rod Blagojevich, and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I'd never want this state to have to go through that shit again.  But he passes the bare fucking minimum test of not being Lex Luthor- an accusation against Bruce Rauner I've made before and completely stand behind. 

We'll see how things pan out, I suppose.

In slightly more local news, Betsy Londrigan beat out Erik Jones and David Gill for the Democrat primary in the 13th. She's got my support no matter what at this point.  Rodney Davis is an extremely boring and bland Republican, but there's that whole banality of evil thing.  He has almost always backed Trump at every point, and we have to do whatever we can to stop shit like that.

People say "The enemy of my enemy IS NOT my friend", and they're not entirely wrong.  But in politics, when we're talking about people who can literally destroy lives, sometimes you have to just do what you can with what you have.  No, I don't want another billionaire to be the governor of this state.  No, I'm not completely sure I trust an ex-aide to Senator Durbin that I know nothing else about for the House.  But if my choice is between them and the dickwads we've got now?  Yeah, no question.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  It may be a short-term friendship, but if it'll get rid of these assholes, I'm all in.  That's the nature political expediency.

I don't have to like it.  I just like it more than where we are today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fear and Loathing 2018: Why The Future Is Literally Our Only Hope

It's nearly midnight on Saturday, February the 17th.  I've had an extremely messed-up-week this week; so has my housemate; so have a lot of people I know and care about deeply.  Some of those messed up weeks have been interconnected, but many of them haven't been, and really, who can spot the difference?  I'd say "2018 can go fuck itself!", but I said that about 2017, and 2016, and maybe there was some moment in my life when things didn't feel like I was in a constant state of crisis.  But maybe not?  My earliest memory is of stepping on a cactus needle, maybe pain is all I know?  All times are end times, after all.

I swear, I'm not going all "goth kid" on you here, this is just the preamble.

Regardless of all the people I know who have had shitty weeks, I think all our nonsense pails in comparison to the horrifying times a bunch of kids in Florida had this week.  And I thought about listing a bunch of other recent school shooting incidents, but it's late, and come on; you know all about them, I know you know; let's skip the pretext.  And this isn't exactly an anti gun post (at least, not yet, with just 3 paragraphs in so far), but just to skip over some bastards who will have stupid opinions: if you honestly believe there is no problem with all the assault weapons in America, you are wrong.  Please go away.  The NRA (in it's current form, at least) can fuck off, and this isn't an article for you. Here's a website all about puppies to distract you instead of reading this.

Right, now that all that negative stuff is out of the way, I promise, I mostly want to talk about positive stuff tonight, because despite everything, I am a hopeful person.  I want to talk about how annoyingly good the kids in America are right now, and no, I won't apologize if Kim Wilde is playing in your head right now.

6 years ago I took a job where basically my main priority was managing college students and the various shit in their lives that they had to deal with. I was 25, and didn't really think too much about it at the time.  After all, I wasn't much older than these kids were, I didn't think it would be that big a deal.  But holy shit, I had no idea.  There were all the things I expected- awkward breakups, interoffice arguments, confusion about where they wanted to take their lives post-university.  But there was so much more.  Deaths, both of staff members their dads' ages and in their immediate family.  Surprised realizations about apartments complexes fucking them over for more money.  Questions about, off the record, how to make the best beverages to get shitfaced on.

I don't mean to suggest all the emotional impact of these various items have been equal, they were just never things I considered before I was asked about them.

It's been a trip, is my point.  But the one thing that struck me the most from the get go was how much nicer these kids were than we were in my day, not much longer ago.  I went to a pretty pretentious high school, and there were still days when I left the library checking to see if any blood was on my clothes from the fight that just happened before I left.

(I'd like to stress, right now, that *I* would never get in a fight in a library.  I have far too much respect for libraries and books in general to do that.)

But these kids?  The were pussy cats.  They were so much nicer and more polite than I expected, even after I'd gotten past that phase you have with people where you pretend you're much less of a bastard than you really are.  But no, really, they were all so fucking nice.  And if anything, 6 years later, they've gotten nicer.  I have my (unjustified by any actual information) theories why, but who fucking cares why?  20 year olds are as naive and stupid as they ever have been, but they care so much more than they did 10 years ago, I'm pretty sure.

I realize, of course, I may be full of shit here, maybe some how the 50 or so 20 year olds I've managed to be in charge of over 6 years were the outliers.  But I've been constantly impressed by their output of politeness and their weird-ass lack of cynicism that everyone I know my age just sort of takes as rote.  I said it about a teenager a few weeks ago, and I still strongly stand by it: these kids are going to save us all, assuming we don't blow up the whole god damn planet first.  And this weekend I was brought to tears, not by my students, but a girl a little younger, a survivor of this shit in Florida.

Nothing about the actual shooting in Parkland is surprising.  An unbalanced white male terrorizing his old school, murdering people for no god damn good reason beyond being yet another awkward kid with assault weapons (somehow?) and a fucked up sense of masculinity?  A guy who hates minorities because that's a pass time for a third of this country, so why not kill children?  Yeah, that's literally the design of America by this point, and also fuck him.  Fuck this system, fuck all of it.  I could look up his name, and give you better facts, but I don't care and I don't want to.  That's not a name I care about.  I care about kids like Emma and Kyra.

Kyra's birthday was the day after the shooting at her school.  The day of, noted hate goblin/Ghost-of-Christmas-Past-version-of-Ann-Coulter Tomi Lahren spouted off her normal "it's not about guns" bullshit, and Kyra replied "A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates.  A gun has traumatized my friends.  My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy.  This could have been prevented.  Please shut the fuck up, Tomi."  This is a child, who's friends were murdered earlier in the day, mind you.  And she's right, recent reports from the FBI state that they kind of knew this could happen, and they didn't stop it.  (Dear right-wingers hate reading this, I know it's not that fucking simple.  I'm actually mostly with you on this *very* specific point.  But the kid a'int wrong.)

And the first response?  Literally, the first thing someone said to her after that: "It was a person not a Gun".  Emphasis theirs.  That was the response to a grieving child, and it didn't really get better from there.  And holy shit, the next day, HER BIRTHDAY remember, she responded with far more grace than I could have. "For those in my mentions, telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, and many other things.  Know that I stand my ground, as a Douglas student.  A student who's lost classmates, friends, and coaches.  For the rest of my life, I will demand change."

Holy shit, this girl is amazing.

And then there's Emma.  Jesus Christ, just.... jut google "Emma Gonzalez speech" and watch it when you've got eleven minutes and forty seconds, because you NEED to watch it.  But if you some how REALLY can't, here are a couple exerts:

"Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not."


"I found out today there's a website Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA's shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn't had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.

"I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we've had our say with the government -- and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying 'it is what it is,' but if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.

"We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it's going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

"There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. 'So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again.' We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn't know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.

"And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student's fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn't take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I'm talking about the people he lived with. I'm talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.

"If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

"You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you."


"Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame the FBI isn't doing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

"The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.  Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn't reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. 

"Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

"If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind."


Ok, I cheated, I quoted almost all of the speech, but that's what you jerks get for not watching it like I told you to.  And it's so fucking good!  This girl deserves a fucking medal in speaking truth to power, and that's before you remember she's saying this just days after her friends have died.  Can we amend the constitution to allow high school seniors to be president already or what?  I can't be the only Prez fan here (kudos if you get that extremely specific reference), but my god, this girl is clearly a better candidate than anyone in congress right now, let alone that bald ass bitch at 1600 Pennsylvania.

These girls are amazing, and they are far from the only ones.  And no, not every amazing kid-who-may-save-us has to be formed by tragedy. But these girls, and the many other kids like them, all across the nation and the world.... they deserve our respect and admiration.  They might be young and come off as naive, but they're often so earnest that it warms the heart of this old asshole.  And I'd far rather have naive earnest kids in charge than the old-ass out of touch fuckers in Congress or the White House right now.

Go get 'em, kiddos.  You deserve a better world than we've given you.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fear and Loathing 2018: Aging Hippies Yelling at Cardboard Cutouts Edition

It's January the 25th, 2018 of the Common Era, and I just got out of my first political Town Hall event for the year.  It went pretty much exactly as I expected, to my mutual relief and disappointment.  I'm not sure what I wanted, exactly, but it wasn't this.  I'm also well aware that sometimes it's a very good thing I don't get exactly what I want, so your mileage may vary on if that was good or bad?  Have self destructive tendencies, will travel.

To be unpolitical in this day and age in American politics is to perform a willfully immoral act.  Whether you love him or hate him (and there really isn't much space in-between), you can't get away with pretending that the presidency of the dementia suffering orangutan isn't affecting the standing of the nation worldwide, or even simply it's citizens at home.  Being on the sidelines is simply a luxury Americans can no longer afford in good conscience, and it's not as if I ever pretended I didn't have strong political opinions beforehand.

Thus, when I stumbled upon a notice about the Cardboard Congressman Town Hall- and I didn't have any better plans that night- I decided to go see the show.  The idea was this:  a town hall meeting for constituents of Illinois 13th and 18th districts, where they could interact with the congressmen from the two districts- Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood.  The kicker:  Neither of the two congressmen were expected to either show up, because, frankly, talking to their constituents isn't particularly good for the mental health of either of them.  Credit it where it's due, LaHood seems to be slightly better at this than Davis, sometimes he does show up when he's pretty sure he controls the room.  Davis doesn't really seem to bother.  Also, I'm not sure why it was the "Congressman Town Hall" not "Congressmen Town Hall", but let's not dwell on the minutiae.

While invitations to both congressmen were sent out- and LaHood's office sent out what was reportedly a somewhat halfhearted reply- as expected, neither showed.  In their places, cardboard cut outs of the two men were at the front of the room.  Prepared questions were asked of the cardboard congressmen, and then fairly well researched answers were read to the audience, based on public statements and the voting records of both men.  Then audience members were asked to respond to the statements with what they would say to the representatives, if they were actually there.

Was it a fairly ridiculous political stunt?  Well, yes, but most town halls involve that no matter what.  Is there any possibility that even if somehow the congressmen saw the video of the event it might change their minds on anything?  Probably not.  But maybe some of the attendants in the audience felt some bit of catharsis, and if so, good for them.  I did not, but that's not meant as a slight.  I'm glad I went.  It's just that catharsis with either of these men was never really an option for me. 

While I find the political views of both these congressmen reprehensible, I'm going to focus on Davis, because I live in the 13th (Just barely, but I'm not going to bitch about gerrymandering tonight, and I'll be the first to admit both parties do it, and it's almost always extremely shitty).  That being said, policy-wise both men are all but clones, so if you live in the 18th, almost all of what I'm about to say about Davis can probably apply to LaHood.  

Okay, so, Rodney Davis.  To my knowledge, I've never met the man.  Maybe he's extremely polite in person, though that does kind of bring back the whole "yeah, but his constitutes never see him in person" thing.  But I don't know, maybe he's great at parties.  All I've got is his voting record to go by and, lordy, since 2017 started it has gone from him being a slightly reasonable Republican to an all-but full blown ball washer for the cheeto in the bad hair piece.  He's voted for the noted fan of Mein Kampf's hopes and dreams 95% of the time, and since this administration almost always aims to do the worst things possible, well, that a'int a great sign.  I could go on and on about how Davis hates all forms of abortion, and doesn't think gay people should be married, and how he says he's definitely not sexist or racist just because he's opposed to affirmative action; but, come on.  You already know this stuff, it's all such a cliche from the GOP these days.

Let me look at the other side of the aisle then, if I may.  There are currently five people running for the Democratic primary for District 13.  They're all basically the same on the issues, which is a bit of a blessing and a curse. It doesn't make it super clear who might be better or worse on the issues one might care about.  Of those five, I only saw reps from two of the campaigns, though it's possible I might have missed someone.  Of the three that I didn't see represented, one is a religion professor (maybe he's interesting, but also maybe he's insufferable?  Hard to say), one's a former assistant state attorney general (my natural aversion to law enforcement kicks in immediately, but I'm trying to hold my prejudices in check), and one is a teacher with little to find on Goggle when it's already 11 PM (No opinion at this time, and I'm not doing any more research tonight, kiddos). 

Of the two campaigns I met with, one is a known quality to me.  I met David Gill 6 or 8 years ago, I'm genuinely not sure which, and it wasn't his first time running for congress then.  His policies are all exactly what I want to hear at this point- they always have been.  Single payer, lets not destroy the world, Citizen's United is terrifying, can we all remember that abortion has always been here, et cetera, et cetera.  I like Gill, but his flyer is still advertising that he only lost to Davis in 2012 by 0.3%, and that's never been a great look.  First, reminding people you almost won that one time just reminds them that you still lost to this same guy.  And second, umm, that was 6 years ago.  Maybe if this was a Senate race you'd have a point, dude, but it's been three elections since then.  

The other rep was for the Betsy Dirksen Londrigan campaign.  I don't know much about her either, beyond that she was a staff for Senator Durbin back in the day.  Her rep was very eager to engage with people, but not in an over-eager way, if that makes any sense.  If it doesn't.... she wasn't at all pushy, but she'd clearly practiced her speech in the mirror several times, and would recite it to anyone willing to listen.  Well meaning, but maybe off-putting if you aren't a politics person.  I am a politics person, so it was fine.  

At this point, I have no idea which of these candidates I'll support at the primary on March 20th.  The point is, I need to do better research.  I'll try to get on that.

One last thing, I don't want to seem like too much of a dick here.  Some of the people at this event seemed to get something emotional and raw from it.  They're trying to engage men who don't want to be engaging with them.  And that may be a bit of an empty gesture, but it still means something.  Of course, it was exactly the crowd I expected: mostly middle aged hippies, then the elderly, followed by a sprinkling of people in their 30's who somehow still believe in idealism. (I personally only believe in idealism every other day, because otherwise it hurts too much.)  But there was a hopefulness to the whole affair.  It was all very polite, I never once heard someone swear, no mater how much I was telling these congressmen to fuck off in my head.

The highlight, undoubtedly, was when a middle school aged girl asked to speak, to talk about trying to generate change at her Jr High; specifically siting the absurdity of Illinois still celebrating Columbus as some kind of hero, rather than a rapey fan of enslaving people.  Loudest applause of the night, and well deserved.  I keep telling people, the kids are gonna be alright, and thank Christ for that.  They may yet save us all from ourselves.


November is a long ways away still, it's far too early to guess anything for sure.  At this point, the safe assumption for the 13th is to go Republican, which means Davis.  But, we live in hope.  Come what may, I'll probably know who I'm voting for in the general on March 21st. We will see how events unfold from here.

Were the cardboard politicians stupid?  Yes.  Will any of this make any kind of tangible difference?  I don't  know.  Signs so far aren't great, but it's genuinely too early to tell.  But I think I want to follow this stuff this year and see what happens.  Be seeing you.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

In Which Virginal Vaginas are Magical and Will Definitely Burn Your Hand Off If Touched

Last year I had a fun time explaining the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the not-officially-official New Testament story about how Jesus was a sociopathic 5 year old who casually murdered his childhood friends whenever they annoyed him.  It was good times, and a good reminder that often the weirdest parts of Christianity aren't Canonical.  In that spirit, today I'm going to tell you all about the Gospel of James, which is a deep dive into the history of Jesus' mama Mary.  And I know, you think you know Mary's whole deal already, but I promise it's waaaaay weirder than you realize.

Our story begins with a super rich dude named Joachim. Joachim is all set to make an offering at a God-party-offering-feast thing, but he gets kicked out of the party because he doesn't have any kids, and apparently that's a pretty big deal.  Basically because the patriarchy is stupid, I guess.  In any case, this gives Joachim a pretty serious case of the sads, and he goes off into the forest to pout.

Of course, this doesn't thrill Joachim's wife Anna, who feels like this is all her fault because she's obviously barren, why else wouldn't they have any children yet?  (LOTS OF REASONS, ANNA!  Infertility isn't a one way street, it's causes are multiple, and actually it's about an even split between partners.  Again, don't be ashamed because of patriarchal bullshit, Anna!)  But Anna isn't a big man-baby, so even though she is also having a sad right now, she has it in the garden, like a respectable person. She enjoys the garden and thinks about what to do next- because obviously all the boning alone isn't doing the trick- when an angel suddenly appears.  As so often does in these sort of stories.

The angel says, "Oh, yeah, you're definitely going to have a kid soon.  Super don't worry about that."  And Anna goes, "OMG! Thank you!  And if I have a kid, I don't even care if it's a boy or a girl, I'll make sure it's life is devoted to God and that it stays holy and pure forever!  Sex is bad, even if sex is how we got into this situation in the first place."  And the angel is like "Well, that's super specific, but whatever, I did my job.  Peace out!"  And then the angel peaces out.

Whilst all this was happening, apparently a different angel appeared to Joachim off camera and told himm the same thing, so just then he returns all excited about the news, and the two of them go off to bang a baby into her.  The next morning Joachim basically kills all of the animals he can find as a sacrifice, (It's quite specific: 10 lambs that all have to be girls for whatever reason, 12 calves of ambiguous gender, and literally 100 goats.  That's a lot of dead goats.)  and 9 months later their daughter Mary is born.

When Mary was 3, they decided they were over this whole parenting thing, and left her at the temple to be raised by the priests there. You would think this would be a bigger deal, but that's it, neither we nor Mary will ever hear from her parents again. Getting to enjoy the God-offering-festival-thing just isn't worth listening to the squeals of a toddler for them.

And I guess the priests didn't so much "raise her" as they "tolerated this street urchin that was dropped off here", because they don't even feed her.  Apparently every day an angel would appear and give her food.  This is mentioned like it's totally not a big deal, but it seems to me that it would be if I had written this story.

By the time she's 12, the priests have decided they really don't want her still hanging out in their basement, she's liable to do something terrible like invite boys over or something.  The priests all start ganging up on their boss Zacharias to get rid of her somehow, but luckily enough another goddamn angel shows up and tells Zacharias how to handle this.

So here's the plan: to get rid of this prepubescent child, all  the local widowed old men are to come together and bring there walking sticks.  And who ever has something crazy happen to their walking stick, that widowed old man has to marry the preteen.  Easy peasy.

... Listen, I just tell the tale, you guys.  Don't blame me for the insanity of all this, I'm just along for the ride with you.

Anyway, that's what the angel said, so that's what they do.  Some guy named Joseph is the last to arrive, and a dove somehow pops out of his walking stick, landing on his head.  The priests decide that's the sign, Joseph is really just confused and uncomfortable with this whole situation.  Zacharias is having none of it, though, so he literally threatens to have Joseph's family murdered if he doesn't take this girl.  And Zacharias is supposed to be a good guy in this story...

From there on, things go pretty much the way you expect them to.  There's some nonsense about making curtains; Joseph goes off on a business trip; God knocks up Mary.  Did I mention she's 12?  Because yeah.  She's 12.  I just want to be very clear about that.

Joe gets back from his business trip and finds Mary extremely pregnant.  This is upsetting to him, because honestly he still felt weird about the whole "marry this child" thing, and he definitely hadn't played slap and tickle with her, so clearly she's been screwing around.  He doesn't believe her when she says she is still a virgin, because duh, why would he?  But then another angel appears (of course) and says "It's all cool, nothing bad is going to happen to you.  I know it sounds insane, but the kid really is God's."

BUT PLOT TWIST!  You remember the priests?  Well, they catch wind that Mary is preggers, and they know that Joseph hasn't legally married her yet.  And having sex with a child you legally own is one thing, but having sex with her before the paperwork is fully signed?  That dog just won't hunt.

Joseph tries to explain as best as he can this entire insane situation, but they don't believe him, because why would they?  It's insane.  They basically say "You think we're stupid?  Okay, if you drink this poison and live, we'll believe you.  If you die, well, your debt to society will be covered then."  These priests threatening Joseph's children earlier is starting to make more sense now, they're pretty hardcore.  But Joseph drinks it and is fine, because this insane story he told was true.  They basically shrug, and Mary and Joe go home.

You know most of the rest of the story.  The tax thing, Mary and Joe head to Bethlehem, only in this version Mary gives birth in a cave rather than a barn.  Mary's lady parts apparently start to glow until the baby is born, so that's weird, but not nearly as weird as this last part. 

Joseph had gotten a midwife to help deliver baby Jesus, which actually makes this version of Joseph way smarter than canonical Joseph.  Afterwards the Midwife meets with her friend Salome and goes "You'll never believe what just happened!  I just helped a virgin give birth to a glowing baby!"  And Salome nods her head and says "You're right, I don't believe you.  Virgins don't give birth, that's silly."  And the Midwife goes "Come with me, I'll prove it to you!"  Salome agrees, and I have to take a minute you guys.

I'm assuming that the "proof of virginity" in this case would mean a fully intact hymen.  Leaving aside the fact that all virginity tests are nonsense, and the fact that hymens can stretch for any number of reasons, and the fact that there's a significant number of variations of hymens and to assume one is or is not virginal by any kind of examination if you're not a professional gynecologist is dumb-- we're going to ignore all of those because there's an even crazier thing going on here.  MARY JUST HAD A BABY.  Birth is traumatic, it's highly likely that there's been some tissue damage down there.  How exactly does Salome think that-- just-- None of this makes sense AT ALL!

But Salome is having none of this, so she goes to Mary and decides to go ahead and shove her hand up into Mary's hoohah.  Apparently she is satisfied that Mary has given virgin birth, even if I don't know why.  More pressing, however, is that when she puts her hand in the Virgin Mother's holy vagina, the holy vagina BURNS HER HAND AWAY!!!??!?
So yeah.  That happened.  I mean, another angel shows up and heals her, because at this point we've pretty much grown to expect that sort of thing, but yeah.  This story basically ends with a very severe reason why she ended up being called the Virgin Mary: her vagina would DEFINITELY melt any penis that tried to enter her.

So the moral of the story is to never grab at someone's genitals without informed consent.  First of all, that's sexual assault.  And also you never know when God will turn their fishy bits into some kind of damn particle beam or something.

Monday, July 24, 2017

In Which God And Satan Make A Wager, And Then Everyone Dies Horribly


This is a really, really depressing story, and I think I need to point that out before I start making fun of it.  However, ever since I started retelling Bible stories in less boring ways, this is the one I always knew I’d get to eventually.  The big enchilada.  The white whale, except, finding a single albino whale that you’re obsessed with in the entire ocean is probably harder than tracking down this part of the Bible.  The point is, I’ve been getting ready to tell this story FOR YEARS.  And now I’m here.  I want to do this.  It’s a terrible idea, but I’m in.

Today, let’s talk about Job.
No, not “job”.  This isn’t an economics discussion, it’s… oy.  Just…. Just go with it.  I don’t come up with these names, man, I just tell the tales.

Our story opens up with God hanging out with Satan.  That is not a joke, that’s really how this fucking story goes.  (SPOILERS: I am going to say many things here that sound like jokes, but they are not.  You have been WARNED.)  And you know, as a hook, “God and Satan are palling around…” is a pretty good one.
Pictured:  God and Satan palling around, according to noted crazy person William Blake.

So, God and Satan are palling around, in heaven or whatever.  And God’s giving Satan a tour, because in this story God and Satan are best bros.  As they’re hanging out, God goes, “Hey, Satan, my home boy; you see this dude Job?  He is the best!  He shuns evil, he has the best stuff, he has a beautiful house and shit.  He sacrifices stuff to me all the time, just because he wants to make sure his kids are good and stuff.  He is such a great dude.”

And Satan- who, you know, is Satan- goes “Dude, he only worships you so hard because you’ve given him all this shit.  I mean, you’ve convinced the stupid humans that literally everything that’s good in life comes from you.  So yeah, he has a mansion and an ice shaver and some sort of means to store ice, even though it’s the freaking bronze age and that technology won’t exist for thousands of years.  Of course he worships you like crazy, he’s a mad suck up!” 

Deeply offended and refusing to believe him, God goes, “No way, that can’t be it!” And Satan goes, “Dude, I bet you if you started fucking with his shit, he’d stop praying to you so much.”  And God goes “YOU’RE ON!”, literally making a bet with the actual Devil, in this story that is in the actual Bible, because God is literally THE WORST. 

(I’m pretty sure I’ve covered that on numerous occasions.)

Thus, Job’s vast plantation is immediately attacked by a raiding party that steal a bunch of his livestock and kill most of his slaves (it was totally kosher back then to own a bunch of slaves).  Then, because when God makes a wager he doesn’t fuck around, a fucking meteor falls from the sky and goes all Tunguska on the rest of his property.  And then a tornado kills all of his children because holy shit, we’re not even done with chapter 1 here, and HOLY SHIT this story is the bleakest thing imaginable.  But Job shaves his head as some sort of weird “It’s cool with me, God” measure, and keeps on worshiping God, like God thinks he should.

For the record, Job is an idiot.  Moving on!

Back in Heaven (or wherever), Satan is thinking “OMG, did you just see how easy it was to goad God into fucking up his best friend?  Amazing!”  But Satan isn’t about to say that out loud.  God goes “Yo, Satan, my boy, guess I won that bet, huh?  I fucked over Job real good, and yet, he’s still rolling with Team Jehovah, huh?”  And Satan- who is giggling so hard when no one is looking- goes, “Okay, sure, you fucked up his property and killed all his children, slaves, and cows.  And that sucks.  But children are awful, slaves don’t count as people, and meteor roasted cows just sounds like instant hamburgers to me.  It’s not like you REALLY fucked him up, right?”  And God goes “You think you can do better?  Go nuts, my main man!”

Now, I want to point out, that yes, Satan is a total dick in this story.  He’s evil, sure.  But he’s not a moron.  And God definitely is the Elmer Fudd to his Bugs Bunny right now.  Satan doesn’t actually care about this Job guy, he just thinks it’s really funny that God is screwing over his number one fan.  THIS IS WHY YOU NEVER GAMBLE WITH THE DEVIL, CHILDREN.

Satan keeps giggling, and goes “Boils all over your body, biznitch!  Hahahahah!!! I can’t believe God is letting me do this, this is hilarious!  Hahahah!!!
This is what boils look like, I guess?  Billy Blake, you so crazy.

By now, Job has lost all his children, all his money, and all his land is on fire and/or has been tornadoed to death, PLUS he is super gross looking now.  And yet, he’s still out there, Praising God, which is like how evangelicals Praise Jesus, but before Jesus times.  His situation has gotten so bad that his only surviving relative, his wife (who does not have a name, because of course she doesn’t, this is the Old Testament) goes “Holy shit, Job.  You’ve lost everything God ever gave you.  Plus, you are super gross now!  And, like, our mansion?  On fire, crushed by a tornado, and with all our dead children in it.  And you’re literally thanking the guy responsible for that?  Fuck you, I hope you fucking die, you monster!”

I think Job’s wife might secretly be the hero in this story.

But Job goes “Don’t you talk shit, it’s old times, and women don’t get the right to an opinion!” Normally, this is where I’d point out that he’s being an asshole. To be fair, though, I’m pretty sure if all this happened to me in one day, I probably wouldn’t be feeling much more charitable than he is.  (But she’s still totally right, for the record.  And he is being an asshole.) 

MEANWHILE, Job has these three friends, named Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, and you can tell they’re all men because they have proper (if silly) names.  And word has gotten around about all this bad shit that’s happened to Job, so they decide to check in with him.  Except, when they get there, between the baldness and the excessive amount of boils, they literally cannot recognize him.  He is just that ugly now.  Everyone feels bad, because everything is awful, so after Job tells them that it’s really him, the four friends all sit in a circle together for a week and say absolutely nothing.

This accomplishes very little.  I’m not sure why that surprises them.

Finally, after all that, Job finally opens his mouth, and starts going all Hamlet on everybody and goes on and on about how he wishes he was dead.  Eliphaz spends and even longer amount of time making a speech, telling him that it’s up to God to judge man.  Frankly, the majority of this book is dudes sitting in a circle telling their extremely unlucky friend that somehow this is all his fault for angering God, and Job saying, no, I didn’t, I don’t know why all this terrible shit has happened.

I remind you, it happened because God made a deal with Satan to fuck with him for literally no good reason.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of these annoyingly long speeches, because the whole reason I do this is so that you can skip that nonsense.  Some other dude shows up literally out of the blue, there’s lots of quotable noise that doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist, and much grumbling over the nature of wisdom and where it comes from.

(“Wisdom” comes from learned experience and empathy for the plight of others.  That’s not their definition, but it is common knowledge you can use in real life!  Unlike this damn story.)

Because after like 35 chapters’ worth of dudes chatting about the true nature of reality (3,000 years before we discovered the Higgs boson, I remind you), another goddamn tornado shows up.  Only this one is stationary, and is apparently the literal manifestation of God himself.  I don’t think God was a tornado at the beginning of this story, but, honestly, I don’t think they say so either way.  Tornado-Style God is all “Yo, I heard you guys talking some shit!  You think you can understand why I do the shit I do?  You guys are just stupid mortals.  You think you know?  You’ve got no idea how many wheels I’ve got spinning, bitches.  I DO WHAT I WANT!”  This exchange actually is much longer in the book, but you catch the general drift.

Now, Job is feeling a little meek about all the boils and dead relatives when facing God himself, understandably.  He basically goes “Yeah, I can’t actually question the will of God, even though he’s done all these terrible things to me, his number one fan, for literally no discernible reason” (I’m pretty sure Job is out of the loop on the whole God and Satan gambling situation).  And God says “That’s what I thought, bitch!  And also some stuff about sea monsters that doesn’t matter at all, but creationists will use this confusing allegory to argue dinosaurs existed in Bible times, centuries down the road!”

I wish I could tell you that I just made that up.  I did not.

So after basically 2 chapters of God talking about the Loch Ness Monster for…  reasons, God yells at Job’s friends for not being nearly as into random suffering the way Job is, and threatens them into sacrificing some livestock for him, just for kicks. Then he bails.

Job ends up getting all better, and having a whole bunch more children to replace all the ones who died.  Apparently that fixes everything, because it’s not like children are human beings or something, and they can be easily replaced with new ones, with no emotional or psychological damage to their parent's psyche getting involved.  I’m not sure if they’re mom is his original wife, but it’s the old testament, so… yeah, it's hard to say. 

Then, Job lives to be so old that death is most assuredly a sweet relief.  Meanwhile, off somewhere, Satan is still laughing at what a tool God was to fall for this scheme.  The end.

Thus concludes this extremely nihilistic story about how the all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe can fuck you up something fierce for literally no reason whatsoever, because fuck you, you don’t know.  Nothing you do matters, you have no say over the nature of your existence, and you better just shut up and deal with it.  Again, I wish I could say that I was making a joke here, but seriously, that is the point of this story.  So, uh, good luck with that.

I’m gonna go home and watch The Hours.  It’s way less depressing that this crap.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Which Giving 5 Year Olds Infinite Power Backfires Somewhat

Wow, it’s been awhile, everyone. How’s life treating you?  It’s been kind of a super crazy year for me, but now I simultaneously have a chance to catch my breath AND find myself kind of bored.  Plus, a friend asked me to write about some sort of crazy story, so I’m going to do that.  STORY TIME, CHILDREN!

Today I’ll be telling you all about the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which people often confuse for the Gospel of Thomas, which they shouldn’t.  First of all, the Gospel of Thomas is probably the best Gospel that got cut by the Biblical Selection Committee, and this… well, isn’t nearly as good, from a “morals and ethical notions” kind of perspective.  Also, I’m pretty sure there’s no murder in the actual Gospel of Thomas, and this one, oh boy.  So much death.

Okay!  This is the story of the Baby Jesus,  only he’s not a baby, now he’s 5.  Now, you Bible Nerds may remember that in the boring old regular Gospels, two of them start around about the time Jesus was being born, one of them skips to him at 12, and then they all jump to him turning 30.  And at 30, Jesus is a mostly chill, sandal wearing, tax paying proto-hippie (just don’t buy shit at church in front of him or whatever, though).  He’s all “don’t be dicks to other people” and “people are generally terrible, but some of them can change” and “fuck water, I’m making wine, bitches!!!”

Jesus is basically a great guy, is what I’m saying.  But as a child, apparently, he was TERRIBLE.  This makes a lot of sense, all children are TERRIBLE.  The difference between Jesus and most other terrible 5 year olds, though, is that as the divine son of a creation deity, 5 year old Jesus already has access to phenomenal cosmic powers.  As anyone who has ever met a 5 year old could tell you, this will be awful for basically everyone. 

Our story opens with Li’l Jesus barking orders at a stream of water for some reason, and then making clay birds, because he’s bored and video games wouldn’t be invented for another two thousand years.  But some jerk sees this and is all “OMG he’s playing with clay on a SATURDAY!”  and freaks right the hell out.  You might remember way back in Moses Times when God was all “Never do anything fun or productive for any reason at all on Saturdays, because I told you so, neener-neener-neener”?  Those rules were still in effect, apparently even for kindergartners.  So, this guy goes and yells as Jesus’ step-dad, who ALSO freaks the hell out. 

Joseph yells at Jesus, and Jesus is all “I’m magic, yo!” and turns the clay birds into real ones that fly away; thus proving that he can manifest a spark of life in wet mud, and also destroying any evidence that he was trying to have fun.  Then some uppity six year old throws a stick at the water Jesus was yelling at earlier, and Jesus is all “Mine mine mine!” (as a five year old will do) and he goes full on end of Raiders of the Lost Ark on this kid.  Like, seriously, I’m not sure if his face melts off or if he super-fast ages to death.  My translation quotes “the lad withered up wholly”, so no matter what happened, it was awful.  Then, Jesus goes home and takes a nap.  The dead kid's parents start yelling out at Joseph that his son is a monster, and they are clearly correct.  Li’l Jesus must be stopped.  But he won’t be, and the dead kid and his parents are never mentioned again.
(Guys.  I LOVE this story.)
Just to prove I'm not making this up, here's a 700 year old picture of this story.  Kid Jesus is in blue.

Later on, Jesus is out playing in the street when another kid bumps into him, and he’s all “Smote that bitch!” and yet another child is murdered by our Lord and Savior.  Because he bumped into Jesus’s shoulder.

More angry parents start yelling at Joseph, who, to be fair, has been put into an impossible situation of raising a child sociopath with infinite power bestowed upon him by his actual, also cosmically powered god-father, whom you may recall cuckolded Joseph before the wedding night and basically just ruined his life.  Maybe the reason Jesus grows up to be so pious and understanding is his stepdad was possibly the most compassionate person ever?  He certainly didn’t take after his biological father, a notorious divine asshole.

As a crowd of angry, yet justified, villagers gathers outside his house to make this monster stop, Joseph tries to explain to Jesus that killing people for petty reasons in generally frowned upon.  Jesus nods his head, says “You’re right, not-my-dad, killing that angry mob would be too easy; they should suffer for a while.”  He snaps his fingers and suddenly the entire crowd is struck blind.  The rest of the city now in a panic, and with no other recourse, Joseph sends Jesus to boarding school, so that he can be someone else’s problem for a while.

Jesus soon has a teacher named Zack, and Zack thinks that he is a child wise beyond his years.  Now, at first I thought that just proved what an idiot Zack was, but then I remembered how many murderous sociopaths are actually hyper-intelligent and super charming.  Maybe Zack was just enthralled by this conniving little psycho?  But OF COURSE this is going to go badly for Zack.  See, in short order Jesus gets bored with him (as he does with all things), and basically starts pointing out what an idiot he is, and how little he understands God and the nature of the universe, and why don’t you just go and kill yourself already, Zack?!?!

After talking Zack off the ledge and putting him in therapy, the school makes Joseph take his awful kid back, which Jesus finds hilarious, because he is horrible.  But good news!  Watching all these people freak out about him makes him laugh even more, so he reverses the previous blindness and stuff, which I guess is good.  Of course, no one ever wants to mess with this child ever again, as he has clearly gone completely mad with power.  Oh, and also, while he fixed the blind people he himself had blinded earlier?  Yeah, the dead kids are still dead.  Hooray.

A few weeks later, Jesus and a friend of his named Zeno are playing on the roof.  Now, I’m not a parent, but I’m pretty sure “don’t let 5 year olds play on roofs” is a pretty easy concept to get behind, because that’s a good way to get their tiny bodies to fall off and die.  As you probably already figured out, that’s exactly what happens to Zeno.  Naturally, Zeno’s parents believe that Jesus has killed again (but really, what were they thinking, letting him play with a demigod child who is a known murderer?).  Jesus turns to his friend’s lifeless corpse and goes “Hey, Zeno, did I push you, or did you fall off the roof like an idiot, which you are?”  And the corpse responds “Yeah, that one was on me, Mom and Dad.”  His parents, too terrified to know what else to do, worship Li’l Jesus in fear, hoping that their son’s corpse won’t be his meat-puppet-play-thing for long.

The rest of the book is sort of a greatest hits prequel to the miracles in the Canonical Gospels, with the added weirdness that a small child sociopath is doing them instead of a kindly teacher type.  Some idiot kid chops his foot off, Li’l Jesus touches it and the bleeding stops, more people join his cult.  Jesus goes to get water, the pitcher breaks when he’s fucking around with it, and he carries the water home in his shirt (That sure sounds like a weaksauce miracle to me, but I didn’t write this damn thing).  Jesus, aged 8, manages to feed an entire village with just a little wheat (I wonder if that trick will come in handy later in life?).  Jesus feels the magic and rubs some wood for his dad to make furniture with.  That is not a joke. (Mostly.)

As the book continues, there are a few more healing acts and resurrections, plus some more of Jesus schooling his own teachers whenever he runs into them, and pint-sized Jesus’ cult of followers keeps growing.  That’s where the book abruptly ends, because apparently Jesus aged 12 to 29 were considered the boring years.  Frankly, that’s a shame.  Super horny, sociopathic Jesus who could kill or raise from the dead anyone he wanted (and as his hormones went crazy) and who already had a cult of followers doing his bidding would make for some good reading.  Somehow Jesus became much more chill as he aged, and apparently we’re doomed to never find out how.  Eventually Jesus let go of his violent tendencies, and all was well.  As long as you didn’t sell stuff at church, that is. 

And as long as you didn’t throw sticks at the water he was just yelling at, I guess.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

He Always Was, And Ever Will Be, Our Friend

On Friday, February the 27th of 2015, Leonard Nimoy died.  He was 83 years old.  He was Mister Spock.

I never met Nimoy, and now I never will.  But like so many others, Spock changed my life.  Actually, I'm not even sure of that, because I can't imagine I time that Spock wasn't part of my life.  We watched Star Trek 3 during my 8th birthday.  I remember before I was 10 years old, my mother yelling at me to stop raising my eyebrow at everything (a classic Spock move!) because it was giving my forehead wrinkles.  Spock taught me the benefits and pratfalls of logic long before my voice changed, and I've been wondering why other people always ignore it ever since.

But he's not really gone, as long as we remember him.  And we should grieve in a way that makes us happy.  So, in celebration of the life of Leonard Nimoy, I selected some Spock-heavy episodes (and one movie) of Star Trek- a few of them that I hadn't seen since I was a kid, even- and thought I'd share a few words about it.

The eye of the tiger.
Amok Time

Captain's Log: Spock's acting weird!  Turns out that all those repressed emotions Vulcans keep in really mess them up when their mating cycle is doing it's thing, and much like the salmon of the Pacific-Northwest, Spock must return home to breed.  Except that his bride-to-be has chosen another suitor: Captain Kirk!  And he and Spock must fight to the death to win her hand!

Best Spock Line:  “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”
I know it's kind of cheating, because this was quoted directly on the "Everything I Need To Know I Learned From Star Trek" poster, but yeah.  SOLID ADVICE.

Why This Episode: It's really not fair to open the re-watch with Spock at his craziest, I know, but you can't have a list of Spock episodes without this and the next entry.  Plus, basically all of Vulcan culture first appears here, and most of it Leonard Nimoy made up, including the Vulcan salute all true Trekkies can do.  In their sleep.  By the age of four.
We see how far the bonds of friendship go between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  And we get to see Spock throw a bowl of soup at a wall and crush a computer monitor in anger, both of which are delightful.  Plus we get hints as to how important Spock's family is in the politics on Vulcan, which is a nice transition into our next episode.

Journey to Babel

Captain's Log: The Enterprise is assigned to transport a collection of diplomats to an intergalactic conference, which is as good as excuse as any to introduce Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek and Amanda MrsSpock'smom.  Spock has Daddy Issues!, mostly because a,) Vulcans are repressed-genius-assholes, b.) as an aristocratic family,  said asshole-behavior is obviously magnified, and c.) as a child, other children bullied Spock for being half human, because Vulcan children, like all children, are The Worst.
But that's just the start!  Political intrigue is afoot, complicated by spies and murrrrrrder!  Sarek looks like the obvious suspect, but what terrible secret is he hiding?  And throw in a knife fight and blowing up ships for good measure!

Best Spock Line: "Humans smile with so little provocation."
Oh, Spock.  Thank you.  YOU get me.

Why This Episode: This is an episode so busy that Captain Kirk getting stabbed in the lung is just a minor plot point complicating the family drama.  Stabbed in the lung! Crazy!  A LOT of things happen in this episode, most involving Spock in some way.  Spock and his dad haven't spoken in years, but that gets wrapped up pretty quickly.  Even with all the craziness around this episode, it's really about bringing Spock and his parents back together, so it's pretty much required watching.

"Just look at this mess!"
The Galileo Seven

Captain's Log: While in route to a humanitarian mission, the Enterprise pauses to send a shuttle craft commanded by Spock to investigate an anomaly.  (Why they didn't just mark it down and come back to it after their initial mission, I have no idea.)  Things go wrong, because this is Star Trek, and Spock and the shuttle's crew must try to survive on a lost planet filled with hostile monkey-cavemen.

Best Spock Lines (It's a three way tie)“I, for one, do not believe in angels.”
Spock is a strict rationalist, because obviously!  Use your head!

"I'm frequently appalled by the low regard you Earthmen have for life."
Because humans are just the worst, seriously.

"I am not interested in the opinion of the majority, Mister Gaetano!"
Seriously!  This is not a democracy!  Spock is the Boss!

Why This Episode: In this episode, our hero, Spock, is forced to command a bunch of idiotic, irrational humans in a desperate survival situation.  It does not go well... because these morons keep resisting Spock's every order.  Seriously, these people are supposed to be the best and the brightest in the fleet, yet they panic at the mere notion of death.  Spock points out that to reach orbit they need to loose the weight equivalent of three men, and they start to angrily assume Spock wants to kill half of them.  They freak out because Spock doesn't want to help them preform a funeral, when they are literally in a life or death situation right freaking NOW.  These officers are insubordinate and AWFUL.
McCoy barks at Spock a lot, but at least Scotty is dedicated to fixing things.  But these redshirts?  They're basically useless.  And their first idea is to kill as many of the monkey-cavemen as possible!  Not very Starfleet-like, I'm glad Spock chews them out for it.
I mean, I know that the episode ends with Spock making a wild guess, and learning a lesson about the limits of logic (that he immediately denies), but I chalk that up to the racist, anti-logic opinion of the 1960's writers. :-p

The Tholian Web

Captain's Log: While trying to investigate a missing starship, Kirk gets caught in a different dimension of space/time.  Spock takes command, then some aliens show up to ruin everything.  I don't want to say anything else, because this episode is rad as hell, and I don't want to spoil too much.

Best Spock Line: "I shall not attempt to voice the quality of respect and admiration which Captain Kirk commanded. Each of you must evaluate the loss in the privacy of your own thoughts."
Kirk's eulogy for Spock in Wrath of Khan is far more famous, but for a Vulcan, this seems to display the height of respect, both for the survivors and for the "dead".

Why This Episode: If the last episode was about Spock learning to lead (and not about how humans are dumb), this episode has Spock being that good leader.  God damn, I love watching Spock be in command, he's just so efficient and intelligent in the role.  I get how some can read him as rude, but that's a misunderstanding of the character.  Perfect example, when Uhura tells him she can't reach the Tholian's on the comm, and then tries to explain why not, he cuts her off to deal with more pressing issues.  That's not meant as an act of disrespect, on the contrary, Spock knows she's good at her job.  He doesn't need more information because he trusts her.
Unrelated, but the Tholians are rad, and I wish they'd show up more than twice in Star Trek (And one of those was on Enterprise, that hardly counts).  And how snazzy were the space suits in this episode?  They were All Of The Snazzy.  I want one.  I would wear it to parties.
Seriously, one rad episode.

Spock make outs!
All Our Yesterdays

Captain's Log: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are investigating a planet orbiting a dying star.  Until recently, the planet was inhabited, but the away team discovers that the population saved itself by sending it's inhabitants into various time periods of the planet's past.  Unfortunately, they make this discovery by becoming stranded in that past themselves: Kirk in a past that resembles a bad three musketeers story, and Spock and McCoy are stuck 5,000 years ago, in the planet's last prehistoric ice age.
Also!  Spock is reverting to the personality of the Vulcans who lived 5,000 years ago, which means he's now Angry Spock.  The plus side: he manages to make sexy time with a Raquel Welsh stand-in.

Best Spock Line: "You are beautiful.  More beautiful than any dream of beauty I've ever known."
Spock is a smooth talker, alright.

Why This Episode: It's Spock's own "The City On the Edge of Forever"!  I mean, no, it's not as good as that episode, but that's still a pretty great episode to be compared to.  And while the time travel stuff is under explained, the Guardian of Forever "just is" in "City on the Edge...", so I'm not gonna complain much.
I like whenever Spock finds love, however briefly, and "primitive Spock" works for me better than "drunk Spock", like in the space hippies episode. And Spock and Zarabeth seem to have a really tactile chemistry between them.  I don't know, it just works for me.
Okay, the "Kirk gets thrown in jail for witchcraft" subplot is a bit rubbish, and McCoy recovers from deadly frostbite awfully fast, but for a late season 3 episode, this one is pretty good.
Wait a minute.... Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, needing to work together, despite failed lines of communication; prisons; our heroes stranded in a frozen wasteland of a planet; near the end of a show/movie run... this all reminds me of---

The look of a man who knows he's the smartest person in the room.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Captain's Log: The Wall Comes Down ... In Space.
It's kind of silly to talk about this film without discussing the politics of the day that it's clearly referencing.  So yeah, this is a film about the end of the Soviet Bloc.  It's also a kickass Star Trek film.  Let's dig in.
A massive energy catastrophe in the Klingon Empire has gravely injured it.  In the wake of this, the Federation and the Klingon Empire have agreed to work together to normalize their relations, in order to save the most lives possible: an end to the long cold war between the two powers.
It will be easier said than achieved, as parties on both sides, Federation and Klingon, want to work against this new peace.  Oh, and who has been sent to be the initial envoys for this mission?  Why, the crew of the Enterprise, of course, on their last mission before thy're decommissioned...

Best Spock Line (Another tie):"History is... replete... with turning points."
A fine point about history, spoken with wisdom.  All times may be end times, but the end times never actually come.

"What you want is irrelevant, what you've chosen is at hand!"
It's not on the "Everything I Know.." poster, but holy cats, important life lesson here.  It's harsh, but true:  How we choose to act in any situation defines us more than what we want, how we feel, or what we wish.

"If I were human... I believe my response would be 'Go to hell.' ... If  I were human."
Sooooo perfect.  Just saying.

Why This Movie:  I thought a lot about which movie to put on this list.. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Spock is fine, but it's nothing too interesting.  Star Trek 2 and 3 were right out, due to the content of the situation.  (I don't really want to watch Spock die at the moment, even if he gets better.)  Star Trek 5 has a couple of "crowning moments of awesome" for Spock ("Damn you, sir!  You WILL try!"), but on the other hand, that movie is unquestionably terrible.That left Star Trek's 4 and 6, and while 4 came close ("Colorful metaphors", indeed...), it came down to logic.  My sister thought this was the best choice. :)
And that's great, because this is straight up my favorite Star Trek film ever.  Yes!  Even more than Wrath of Khan or First Contact.  And it's topical, because this movie is about a lot of things, but ultimately, it's all in the title:  The Undiscovered Country, the future.
And the future scares a lot of people.
This is a film about a lot of things.  It's about the folly of racism/nationalism.  Even our heroes are guilty of it.  "They don't have the same respect on life as we have " Scotty tells Spock, and, as always, Spock remains the rational one ("Hardly conclusive, Mister Scott, as Klingons have no tear ducts.").  And prejudices are often the hardest thing to overcome when forging a new way.  "Don't let it end this way, Captain" Chancellor Gorkon says as he dies, knowing that changing the way things are is a bloody, but necessary process to building a better future.  Kirk's racism against Klingons- an ancient hatred compounded with the death of his son at the hands of a Klingon- makes matters even worse for him at his trial.  It's only when he overcomes this racial hatred that he sees the truth, that he understands Spock's plan, that he can SAVE THE DAY.  Literally, the only way the heroes can win is to put aside their prejudice to build a better tomorrow.  This is Star Trek at it's finest.
After Kirk and McCoy's arrest, Spock is in automatic command response, which, as usual, he rocks at.  REASON ENOUGH TO WATCH THIS MOVIE.
Plus, the core?  Oh man, it is weird and awesome.  People don't appreciate the music in movies like they should.

We now live in a world without Mister Spock, without Leonard Nimoy.  This is our future now, and Star Trek, at it's core, has always been about building a better, brighter future.  But like I said, Nimoy isn't really gone, as long as we remember him (Star Trek taught me that).  He and his words, his personal journey- both as Spock and as himself- will go on in our memories.  And I, for one, will never forget.